Chicago parents, students learn of school closings - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Chicago parents, students learn of school closings

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago teachers, students and parents reacted with tears, questions and anger as news trickled out Thursday about which schools the city plans to close as part of a cost-cutting effort that opponents say will disproportionately affect minority children.

OFFICIAL LIST:  Click HERE to see list of 61 CPS school buildings to close

The nation's third-largest district announced their list of 54 schools to be closed Thursday. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett say CPS must close schools to help deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall and better allocate its resources to students. They say CPS has more than 500,000 seats for roughly 403,000 students, and that closing half-empty facilities will allow students in low-performing schools to attend better ones.

"For too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed in the classroom because they are in underutilized, under resourced schools," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement late Wednesday.

As Chicago Public Schools officials began notifying teachers and staff at affected schools, word got out to angry parents and students.

"My teacher, in the morning we didn't know what was happening to her, she was crying. So later on this afternoon, she told us that the school was closing," said an emotional Daqueeta Holland, a student at Lyman Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville.

For Holland, Trumbull is the only school she's ever known.

"This school is my heart, I just love it," said Holland.

Holland's godmother is also heartbroken. She's taught at Andersonville elementary school for 15 years.

"Some may be laid off and some may not, it depends. It's going to be rough now. Some of us are going to be split up," said Betty Perry, an Assistant Teacher at Trumbull.

Perry told Fox 32's Tisha Lewis she's worried about losing her job.

"Yes, yes because I never thought it my life line that this school would ever close, never," said Perry.

The school built more than a century ago is a learning environment for hundreds of special-needs students. Nearly 40% of the student body require extra attention including James Morgan's son.

"It's all about routine. So now you're disrupting the routine of the children and the 145 special ed kids, we just got three this week that were added to Trumbull's enrollment, the special ed kids, studies have shown that it takes 18 months for them to recover or to regroup themselves every time they're moved," said James Morgan, a parent of a Trumbull student.

Morgan is also President of the Local School Council.

Fox 32's Tisha Lewis reports Chicago Public Schools says Trumbull is underutilized and plans to transfer its 389 students to Eliza Chappell, James B. McPherson or John T. McCutcheon elementary schools.

"The utilization equation just does not fit for Trumbull because we are 36% special education and therefore you cannot put 30 kids in a room. By state mandate, you can only have up to eight," said Sarah Lopez.

Students received a "draft transition plan" to take to home outlining what's to come.

After an emotional day, Holland says what's most important is, "As long as I go to a better school and it's, I get better grades."

On Chicago's South Side, kids were playing after school while some parents were talking about letters they received letting them all know their schools were closing. One such school was Mahalia Jackson at 88th and Vincennes.

Sabrina Monden has two sons at Mahalia Jackson School and she's already worried.

"Now we gotta worry about our kids going to another location and worry about what's gonna happen to them going to school? And it's sad," Mondon says. "I can't quit my job, you know, trying to make sure my kids get home safe cuz how we gonna eat and pay our rent every day."

Monden drives her children to and from Mahalia Jackson each day, but Christina Johnson and her 3-year-old daughter Zion walk. They take steps through a viaduct and have to cross four lanes. It's six blocks each way every day and while CPS officials say the neighborhood school is underperforming, Johnson says it's the best they have.

"My baby needs this education," Johnson says. "I do what I have to do...rain snow sleet and hail. I'm going so my baby can get a better education."

Chicago is among several major U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, Washington and Detroit, among others, to use mass school closures to reduce costs and offset declining enrollment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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